Usually, it's the opportunities you choose to take that create the basis for your career. Morten Collin has been working near and far for the last 25 years at COWI, and it has been quite a journey, to say the least! Here, Morten tells us about the opportunities he grabbed which led to his long and successful career as a project manager.
I never had a clear game plan for the direction my career should take. What steered me were the opportunities I have been subjected to, and my response to them. However, I have always been aware of what drives me: I love multidisciplinary projects – the higher the complexity, the better.
I have always felt an urge to travel and experience working abroad. Back when I started, it was not so easy to go and work abroad. Luckily for me, I joined COWI straight from university, and after a turbulent start in getting the first opportunity to go abroad, I was finally offered a chance to move to Tanzania, where I among the odd jobs got to manage a road project; I of course jumped at the opportunity. Working in Tanzania for 3 years was a great experience, but I was not finished experiencing the world. I wanted to work in other countries. When I returned to Denmark, I asked myself: "what is it that makes me go to work every day?". The answer was simple: people and projects.
Different cultures have always fascinated me. I really enjoy observing and interacting with people from all over the world. As a project manager, it is a must to understand different cultures in order to get my message across and set the proper direction for the given project. I love that my career has allowed me to build on all my interests over the years.
Seeing a project grow from the very initial drawings and calculations to actual construction is, without doubt, one of the most incredible experiences as a project manager. To complete a successful collaboration, it is important to establish a common goal for project between the contractor and the consultant.
A project very close to my heart is the Doha metro. The Red Line North Underground is part of the Doha Metro network, a rapid transit system under construction in the capital of Qatar and surrounding municipalities. The project is part of a wide-ranging plan to realise a new transportation structure in Doha representing urban life and comfort in a hostile climate for the many residents and visitors in the capital. COWI won the project back in 2012 and I was involved from 2014 until it recent completion. Being able to follow this project through to opening this year was great. Getting the look and feel of how this new metro will really make a difference to the capital Qatar; that's when all my hard work really matters seeing the project inaugurated.
A successful project requires a successful team. As a project manager, my primary objective is to create a work setting where each person in the team is able and wants to give their best. Saying it is easy, but it's much more challenging in reality. When I work with a dedicated and well-performing team, that's when the fun begins. I get to work across borders, companies, disciplines within engineering and other professions – the list is endless.
I was stationed in Oman for nearly 8 years, and that period really shaped my leadership style - which is all about accountability and freedom. Being a project manager for 100 people makes it impossible to be included in everything. Thus, I take great pride in getting the right cooperation with the discipline leads and giving them the freedom to make the decisions they believe are the best for the project, but still in close cooperation with the other disciples. Based on my experience, the freedom under accountability is where I really see people grow personally as well as professionally.